Wednesday felt like the longest day of Braden Calvert’s life.
The 18-year-old Carberry native was counting down the hours until this morning’s flight for Liverpool, N.S., where he will skip the Manitoba men’s team at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian junior curling championships.
This is the biggest curling stage Calvert has ever been on and he can’t wait to hit the ice on Saturday when he takes on Nunavut’s Jamie Airut.
"It’s pretty exciting," Calvert said. "It’s probably the most neat buffalo to win; just the highest calibre. It feels really good. A lot of practice really paid off this year."
The last year has been filled with success for Calvert. He skipped different teams to provincial under-18 and high school titles and competed at the 2013 junior provincials in Brandon last January.
Knowing that he was moving to Winnipeg to study agriculture at the University of Manitoba, Calvert, who skipped a Brandon team to the inaugural Sun Life Junior Challenge title in 2011, left his Westman-based junior team at the end of last season. He teamed up with Kyle Kurz, Lucas Van Den Bosch and Brendan Wilson in Winnipeg and the team surpassed Calvert’s expectations by winning the 2014 provincial junior final 6-1 over defending national junior champion Matt Dunstone on Dec. 31 in Portage la Prairie.
Winning his first junior buffalo crest spun Calvert’s life into a whirlwind as his team has tried to get to curling clubs in Winnipeg as much as possible to practise, and he’s trying to balance that with six classes at the U of M this semester.
"It’s been a bit of a challenge but I’ve decided to work extra hard at school and curling the last couple weeks," Calvert said. "I was just trying to get permission and all the work done so I can leave for such a long time. …
"I don’t think it will be an issue (balancing school and curling) at all. I usually do pretty well in school and while I’m at Nova Scotia, I’ll just be focusing on curling 100 per cent."
While Calvert goes into nationals as a rookie skip, he doesn’t feel like he’s at that much of a disadvantage as the majority of players are also making their debuts on the junior national stage and none of the skips were in last year’s event.
Manitoba has been placed in a pool with Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Nunavut. The top four teams will advance to the championship pool, which will include the top four teams from the other preliminary pool. The top three teams in the championship group will advance to playoffs, with the top seed receiving a bye to the final. The semifinal and final will be played on Jan. 26.
Calvert, who credits Carberry for his success since he started playing there and lived there until this school year, doesn’t want to look too far ahead this week, but hopes his team can make some noise in Nova Scotia.
"Our goals are just to play really well during the week and hopefully be there at the end of the week," he said.